Austinites prepare to cheer on Qui and Curren

I'll admit I found all the secrecy surrounding the filming of Top Chef: Texas this past summer pretty silly and pretentious. After all, they were filming a reality TV show, not holding Middle East peace talks or curing cancer – but I am curious to see which Texas locations made it into the series, and I'd love to see local chefs Paul Qui of Uchiko and Andrew Curren of 24 Diner do well in the competition. The show premiered Nov. 2, and contributing Food writer Melanie Haupt attended the media preview party at Uchiko. See what she has to say about it on our Food blog, On the Range. Bravo's Top Chef: Texas airs Wednesdays at 9pm, and both Uchi (on the patio) and Uchiko (in the restaurant) will host weekly viewing parties at 9pm complemented by special Top Chef Social menus.

The holidays are fast approaching, which means it's time to whip out those treasured recipes for cakes, cupcakes, cookies, candy, cheese­cakes, pies, tarts, and tortes and enter the Holiday Baking Contest at Faraday's Kitchen Store (Saturday, Nov. 12, 1501-A RR 620 N.). There will be great prizes in four categories – pies and tarts, cakes and cupcakes, cookies, and other – and the grand prize winner will be chosen from among the top four. I'll be one of the judges, and after the judging, customers will get to taste the entries and vote on a People's Choice award. Complete details and entry forms are available at

Unscrewing the top of a bottle of homegrown Sweet Leaf peach tea at the Texas Monthly BBQ Festival on Sunday afternoon reminded me of a news item. Austinite Angela Buraglia was one of three winners in Sweet Leaf's recent Great Grannyism Cap Off Contest. Her winning slogan will appear under bottle caps as Grannyism No. 79, and she'll receive a year's supply of Sweet Leaf Tea and other goodies... Speaking of local winners, Round Rock home brewer Corey Martin was one of three winners in this fall's Samuel Adams LongShot American Home­brew contest. His winning A Dark Night in Munich beer will be bottled and available nationally in the Samuel Adams 2012 LongShot Variety six-packs, which will hit shelves after the first of the year.

A lightning round of local restaurant news: Contigo (2027 Anchor) is now serving brunch on weekends, 10:30am-2:30pm... Sazón (1806 S. Lamar) has a new happy hour with select half-priced appetizers, plus various drink specials... Kudos to Uchi, named one of the America's Top Restaurants by Zagat's 2012 guide – recognition like that reflects well on our entire local restaurant scene!... Austin's homegrown regional chain Gatti's Pizza rolled out a new fast-casual restaurant concept last week with the opening of Gatti's in the Hancock Center (1000 E. 41st), offering signature pizzas, specialty salads, and oven-baked sandwiches... Veterans and active-duty military personnel are invited to eat for free at all area Applebee's on Veterans Day... At the Green Corn Project benefit on Sunday, chef Todd Duplechan provided a sneak peek at the winter menu for his new Lenoir restaurant on South First Street, which he advises should be open this winter.

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Top Chef: Texas, Paul Qui, Andrew Curren, Uchiko, 24 Diner, Faraday's Kitchen Store Holiday Baking Contest, Sweet Leaf Tea, Great Grannyism Cap Off Contest, Corey Martin, Samuel Adams LongShot American Homebrew contest, Contigo, Uchi, Lenoir, Todd Duplechan

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